CAREER PLANNING FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS
General Advice from the Department
It is never too soon to start thinking of the sort of career you might wish to enter after
completing your degree in Psychology.
The British Psychological Society (BPS) produces career booklets outlining the different
career routes in psychology and their related training and entry routes. Copies can be found in
the Careers Service and also in the careers information carousel outside the main lecture
theatre. This information can also be found on the BPS website
www.bps.org.uk/careers/careers_home.cfm. The departmental office also holds a copy of a
Compendium of Postgraduate Studies in Psychology which may be consulted. On the
windowsill outside of the departmental office you will find copies of the BPS memorandum,
these contain some job opportunities for psychology graduates.
Details of jobs and courses of interest are posted regularly on the Careers notice-board and
the departmental careers rep (Katie Slocombe) and supervisors are always willing to give
advice, as far as they are able, on job options.
Each year the department holds a Careers day for second year undergraduates. This consists
of a series of talks given by people working in a range of career areas, including psychology
and non-psychology occupations. In the past there have been talks on clinical psychology,
forensic psychology, teaching, management, doing a PhD and post doctoral research.
Every term Psychsoc arranges a lunchtime careers talk open to undergraduates, postgraduates
and staff. These are advertised on the notice boards and via email.
Planning your Career
What are you going to do when you graduate? The earlier you start thinking about this the
better – whilst you are at University you have access to information and professional staff
who can help you. You also have more time to explore, experiment and research some of the
options, before you need to make applications in your final year or after graduation. If you
don’t know what you want to do after your degree, then making the most of opportunities at
university to try out different activities, take on responsibilities and building up work
experience may help you to identify your strengths and interests and help you to develop
Whatever stage you are at in your career planning, don’t forget that for most employers your
degree is a starting point – they will also expect you to possess a range of transferable skills
and work related experience - see the section on psychology graduate skills.
Career options for psychologists
Psychology graduates have a wide range of career options open to them, some directly
related to the subject, such as Clinical or Forensic Psychology. The majority of psychology
graduates however will not become professional psychologists but may enter careers where
they use the skills that they have gained through studying psychology, such as Systems
Analysis or Market Research (see below). Many jobs are open to graduates of any degree
discipline (although sometimes further study is required), such as management, media,
teaching, finance, law, marketing and management consultancy. In these jobs personal
qualities and transferable skills are the most significant factors, rather than the specific
subject studied at degree level.
You can find out more about the types of jobs and further study that York psychology
graduates have gone on to do here:
For an overview on what you can do with a Psychology degree visit the Prospects website:
Career ideas within psychology
After graduating some of you will want to take jobs for which graduate membership of the
BPS is important. The psychology course at York leads to a degree recognised as a
qualification for graduate membership of the BPS. Details of BPS student membership may
be found on the notice-board outside the departmental office, and application forms are held
in the Departmental Office.
It is important to realise that many jobs (and courses) will require substantial work
experience prior to entry (particularly clinical, educational and counselling psychology). You
may therefore need to spend some time, both during and after your degree, building up work
experience in roles which may or may not require a degree
Jobs are advertised in the monthly BPS appointments memorandum; these can be found in a
file next to the Departmental office window.
For information about professional pathways in psychology see the BPS website
An excellent web site which can be used to search for science, research, academic and related
jobs in the UK and abroad. You can subscribe to Jobs by Email for vacancies in universities,
FE colleges, research institutions, commercial and public sector bodies, schools and charities.
Generating career ideas
The University Careers Service can help you through the process of choosing and getting the
job or postgraduate course that is right for you, but you are the one who must make the
decisions. Even if you think you know what you want to do it makes sense to spend time
researching your option to confirm those ideas and considering back-up options if your plans
don’t work out immediately.
The Careers Service produces two handouts to help you start the career planning process,
called "Planning your Future Parts 1 & 2", which outline how to carry out self-assessment,
generate career ideas and research career options. There are also lots of additional resources
in the Careers Service Information Room in the ‘Getting Started’ section. Useful web based
• Prospects Planner will provide career suggestions
• Profiling for Success psychometric tests - the Type Dynamics Indicator
questionnaire will provide you with a report outlining your personality preferences
and how these might relate to work environment and occupations. This is similar to
MBTI (see below) www.york.ac.uk/services/careers/psychometrictests/access.yku
• The Windmills program www.windmillsonline.co.uk
The Careers Service also offers MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) workshops which can
help you to understand your personality preferences and begin to consider your career
options in relation to these preferences – check the events programme for details of sessions:
You are also encouraged to discuss your career ideas (or lack of !) with your supervisor
and/or Careers Adviser – details here: www.york.ac.uk/services/careers/service_dropin.cfm
The Careers Service Information Room has a wide range of resources to help you to research
different career options, further study, applications and interviews, work and study outside
the UK and taking time out. There is also lots of take-away information.
The Careers Service events programme features a range of fairs, talks, workshops and skills
training sessions that can help you to find out more about different career options
Online, the best starting point is the Prospects graduate website www.prospects.ac.uk
Many organisations in the public and private sectors offer internships for second year
students, typically in areas such as finance, IT, business and management. Some of these
have very early deadlines (Nov-Dec), particularly in the finance sector. You can find out
about advertised opportunities via the Careers Service website
For work experience in some career areas (eg psychology, media, environment) you may
find that you need to research and contact relevant organisations yourself in order to obtain
experience. The Careers Service has information and handouts on finding work experience
(downloadable from their website www.york.ac.uk/careers) that can help you to identify
work experience opportunities.
Many graduate recruitment schemes in the public and private sectors open for applications in
the autumn of the year before graduation. Many have deadlines as early as November. During
this period the Careers Service hosts Careers Fairs and advertises recruitment events and
presentations by employers. More information can be found on the Careers Service website
Some applications for further study also need to be submitted early, in particular Teaching
(Primary deadline is 1st Dec), Medicine (UCAS deadline 15th Oct) and Social Work (UCAS
deadline 15th Jan). Further information on postgraduate study is available here
A good psychology degree from York is an ideal platform from which to take further study.
If you are considering further study in an area related to psychology you should talk to your
project supervisor or member of staff involved in the area of research that you which to
pursue as they will have valuable contacts and advice.
Opportunities in the Department
The department currently offers five masters programmes these are:
o MSc Applied Forensic Psychology
o MSc Cognitive Neuroscience
o MSc Forensic Psychology Studies
o MSc Reading, Language and Cognition
o Masters by research (MRes in Psychology)
The department also offers full-time and part-time research degrees leading to MPhil and
PhD qualifications in all areas of research covered by faculty members.
Information about these courses can be found in the Graduate Study Pages.
http://www.allpsychologyschools.com/ lists all of the US psychology research 'schools'.
Other useful websites: http://www.findaphd.com/ and http://www.findamasters.com/
Information on other types of study is available at the Careers Service and via their website:
Teacher Training - Advice on applying for a PGCE
Students wishing to apply for teacher training should plan their application carefully and
ensure that they obtain relevant work experience in schools and working with children/young
people. In recent years about 10% of graduates each year have entered teacher training, the
majority starting primary teaching courses. It can be more difficult to obtain places on
secondary PGCE courses because psychology teaching in schools is limited, but graduates
have obtained places on biology/science, maths and social science PGCE courses. A small
number of PGCE courses in psychology has just been introduced.
PGCE admissions tutors need to satisfy themselves that applicants are suitably qualified to
teach their chosen subjects. They have the final decision regarding entry to courses and if you
are in any doubt as to the suitability of your degree you should contact them directly for
advice – which can vary from course to course. As a rough guide, for a secondary PGCE,
your degree should include about 50% of the subject you intend to teach. However, booster
and subject enhancement courses (taken prior to commencing a PGCE and funded) are
available in some 'shortage subjects'.
For application to primary PGCE courses you need to demonstrate that you are qualified to
teach across the national curriculum so you should make the following points in your
1. The honours degree in psychology at York takes a very scientific approach. All of the
programme can be classified as science, maths, information technology or English
and you should demonstrate this on your application.
2. The programme includes topics of direct relevance to the primary school teacher¹s
work, such as developmental psychology, learning disorders and psychometric testing.
You will be asked to provide a breakdown of your degree, with an estimate of time spent on
different subjects in the section entitled 'Content of First Degree'. For example, it is not
difficult to classify all the Part 1 modules as 'science'. Data Analysis I and II (Yr1) can be
classed as mathematics or technology. One student even classified her Y3 option 'The
development of pictorial representation' as art !
The Careers Service can provide assistance for students completing PGCE applications. They
also run a number of sessions relating to teacher training: an overview of the training process;
completing PGCE applications; researching PGCE courses; and preparing for PGCE
interviews. See the events programme for details www.york.ac.uk/careers/events.cfm.
The www.teach.gov.uk website contains a wealth of information about teaching and teacher
See also the Teach First programme www.teachfirst.org.uk.
Psychology graduate skills
Listed below are some of the skills which a typical psychology graduate will have acquired
during his/her degree course.
The ability to write both succinct reports and more lengthy analyses. Psychology graduates
are accustomed to writing essays, which allows them to explore issues in detail, but they also
become familiar with the techniques of concise writing within a pre-set format, as they write
up their practical reports. The ability to produce a concise report is often cited by managers
as a skill they would like their management trainees to have.
The ability to handle and interpret statistical information. Psychology graduates are good at
drawing the implications out of data summaries and probability statements.
The ability to use a computer package, whether word processing or statistics, and the ability
to learn to use new ones. The ability to programme is rarely required and most organisations
accept that their own systems are likely to be new. Most psychology graduates are familiar
with the basic use of computer packages by the time they graduate.
Knowledge of the mechanisms of social communication and the potential sources of
interpersonal conflict. This may make a difference in understanding and dealing with
interpersonal problems when they arise in the workplace. Most psychology graduates are
familiar with this type of knowledge.
Knowing how environments, organisations, etc., can directly influence people's
understanding and behaviour. Psychology graduates are taught to be aware of the impact of
The ability to identify different strategies and approaches to solving problems. This may be
on a macro-level, in applying totally different perspectives or levels of analysis to the
problem, or at a more basic level in terms of choosing appropriate methods to deal with it. It
is a valuable skill in the organisational world, and one which psychology graduates are
strikingly good at.
Knowing how to go about looking for information on a particular topic or general area. This
type of resourcefulness is potentially valuable in many types of job.
The ability to appraise information and situations realistically, and to anticipate problems or
difficulties. An essential skill for a manager or management trainee, and useful in many
others. Psychology graduates are directly trained to analyse and evaluate critically.
Knowing how to go about gathering systematic information about human experience or
behaviour. Psychology students are trained in a number of different methods - at the least,
observational, experimental and case study techniques. Such awareness of methodology is
useful to any number of different professions, some obvious ones being marketing and health
Knowing how to go about designing questionnaires and developing other measurement tools.
Psychology graduates acquire these skills early in their degree and use them repeatedly in
practical assignments and their final year research project.
The ability to look at issues from several different points of view. Psychology graduates are
directly trained to do this and it is seen as a valuable skill by employers.
The ability to extract general principles from immediate or concrete situations. Psychology
graduates tend to be better than most people at spotting recurrent patterns or similarities
between situations, and at looking at issues in terms of their underlying principles rather than
becoming bogged down with the details of the immediate situation.
The ability to make the best of a non-ideal situation, and to get on with working within pre-
set constraints. It does not take much exposure to psychological methodology for psychology
students to realise that the perfect experiment is going to be elusive and they will simply have
to get on with doing it as well as possible anyway! As graduates, this tends to give them a
strongly practical element which is valuable in many forms of career.
Enhancing your career opportunities
The York Award and skills training
The York Award is a certificated programme of transferable skills training and experiential
learning, offered by the University of York in partnership with leading public, private and
voluntary sector organisations. As competition for graduate jobs increases it becomes
increasingly important that students acquire a range of skills and experience in addition to
their degree which helps them to stand out from the crowd. The York Award helps students
to do this.
To obtain the York Award students have to plan and pursue an active programme of personal
development. This includes participating in extra-curricular activities, gaining paid and
voluntary work experience and undertaking additional skills training.
Whilst the University encourages students to register for the York Award, York Award
courses are open to all students, whether or not they are registered. Courses cover a range of
skills, including project management, leadership, team building, presentation skills, British
sign language and counselling skills.
Voluntary work opportunities
Volunteer projects can be extremely enjoyable. They offer you a chance to develop skills that
are useful for psychology and future employment opportunities. Projects are very flexible in
terms of the amount of time you are expect to commit and cover a wide range of interests
from working with children and the elderly to conservation projects and fundraising.
In the Department
Faculty members and researchers in the department are often looking for volunteers to help
with research. If there is a particular research group you would be interested in assisting then
you are encouraged to contact them directly to ask if there are any current opportunities.
Please see the Undergraduates Research Experience Scheme (URES) pages
In the University
The Community and Volunteering Unit (CAVU) at the Careers Service helps students to find
volunteering projects and opportunities with local organisations. Many projects involve
activities which would be useful experience for psychology, education and welfare related
York Students in Schools (YSIS)
Many psychology students choose to take part in this scheme. Students become tutors or
mentors in local schools assisting with specific curriculum activities and supporting pupils
Active York encourages staff and students to contribute actively to the University's
communities, supporting not-for-profit organisations in York and North
York Student Community Action
STUDENT ACTION projects range from taking kids on activity holidays to Whitby, to
running drama workshops in a local prison, coaching sport in schools and building web sites
for local charities. You can join an existing project, or set up your own.
York Council for Voluntary Service (CVS)
York CVS offers advice, training, information and support to local voluntary organisations
and community groups in order to help them work more effectively. Part of their role is to
help local organisations recruit volunteers. http://www.yorkcvs.org.uk/
For National Volunteering opportunities try the following web pages:
Many students choose to take on a part-time job whilst studying. Current opportunities can be
found through local papers such as The Press, www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/index.html,
fish4jobs and the Careers Service www.york.ac.uk/services/careers/jobs.cfm.
The department also offers paid work to students in vacations. These posts are generally for
4-6 weeks and are advertised on notice boards and via email.
See also the University current vacancies http://www.york.ac.uk/jobs
Do make use of the help offered by the Careers Service and the Psychology Department. If
you can't find information or the answer to what seems to be a trivial or a major question,
ASK - if we don't have the answer, we'll find someone who does. Above all, don't leave it too
late – although the Careers Service at York will still help you after you have graduated it can
be more difficult to access information and services if you move away.
The careers service (http://www.york.ac.uk/careers/) is situated near Market Square near the
Student Services building facing Campus Central car park. For up to date opening times
consult the careers centre web page. The careers adviser for psychology is Janice Simpson
who can be contacted through the Careers Service e-mail enquiry facility.
Updated: July 2009